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Join our dogged pursuit of road hazards and help

By JEAN HELLER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001


Hello, Seminole!

Allow us to introduce ourselves.

The cute one in the photo is Jessie, the Westie, a pothole pooch if ever there were one. You can take food out of Jessie's mouth and she won't bite. But she won't tolerate potholes that don't get fixed, police vehicles, school buses, garbage trucks and other official vehicles that run red lights and speed for no good reason, badly designed streets and endless construction.

I'm Jessie's chauffeur.

Together, we roam southern Pinellas County looking for problems you need to know about. We depend on you for help. If you know of a situation that needs attention, get in touch with us by one of the means listed at the end of the column (please, not by telephone), and we'll get out to take a look.

Anything south of East Bay is fair game.

For example:

We begin our recon mission around southern Pinellas County this week with an e-mail from Joan Paulercio of Seminole complaining about traffic using 70th Avenue as a cut-through from Park Boulevard.

"We are retired people that have lost many hours of sleep over this problem that our city officials know about," Paulercio wrote.

She asked if perhaps speed bumps would discourage people from using 70th Avenue as a way to avoid the light at the intersection of Park and Seminole boulevards.

We asked a couple of well-placed people some well-deliberated questions and got some answers. And while they might not resolve the 70th Avenue problems completely, they should help.

Part of the traffic crush there is caused by people who want to shop at the Home Depot on Park just east of the Seminole intersection. But they don't want to enter or leave the parking lot directly onto Park because there is no traffic signal there, and there have been a number of serious accidents.

So they use the back way, which is 70th Avenue.

The county has heard you and decided to help. By the end of the year, there will be a traffic signal on Park in front of the Home Depot, which should draw off a lot of the traffic now bothering the Paulercios and their neighbors.

Those of you who live in the area, keep an eye on it after the signal goes up and let us know if it is doing any good.

* * *

After a delay of a month and a half, the closure of Oakhurst Road (137th Street) south of Park Boulevard and north of 77th Avenue in Seminole is about to come to an end. Pinellas County Utilities tells us that the closure, to accommodate the installation of a reclaimed water line to the south beaches, will end tomorrow.

And you thought there was no good news.

Of course, Pinellas County Utilities has been wrong before.

* * *

Now that the rainy season is here, it seems appropriate to send up a red flag over an area we have discussed before. During a downpour at rush hour about 10 days ago, all the usual places in downtown St. Petersburg flooded. And any flooding is dangerous, of course.

But none more so than the northbound lanes of I-275 just south of the I-375 overpass. The extreme left lanes fill with water quickly at the drop of anything heavier than a light shower.

During that recent downpour, we came up behind a tow truck parked behind two cars that had run into the water at high speed and stalled out. The water was literally over the car wheels, mine included.

Fortunately, we had anticipated the deep water and slowed. But while we waited to move to the right, out of the flood zone, we could feel the water rocking the car, and it was a very scary sensation.

So take note. If you are northbound on the interstate during a heavy rain, in the vicinity of downtown, the farther to the right you can travel, the safer you'll be.

* * *

Drum roll, please.

It is time now for the Eyeball Jiggler of the Week, that happy-go-lucky look at places you don't want to be in a car with a bad suspension, places where, if you hit them at even the posted speed limit, your eyeballs hit the top of your skull causing puce and fuchsia spots to appear in your vision.

The aforementioned rain is creating EJWs in vast and varied profusion. When the skies open up long and hard, water seeps into the cracks in asphalt and and concrete and erodes from below. These places are called pothole birthing grounds.

Our favorite this week is the stretch of U.S. 19 between 49th Street and the Gandy overpass in Pinellas Park. The roadway is crumbling.

We noted Thursday that crews were in the northbound lanes trying to keep ahead of the damage, but nobody had touched the southbound lanes.

These problems will persist until the rains end which, with any luck, won't happen until late next fall. We need the water. But keep an eye on the roads.

And don't forget to nominate your favorite EJW.

* * *

Okay, we have one more item of business this week, Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbits:

U.S. sales of medium and heavy trucks slid 30 percent between April 2000, and April 2001, from 43,532 to 30,222. We have absolutely no idea why -- or even if -- this is significant, but we thought we'd better tell you in case it's important.

And -- this will shock you -- more than half of Americans surveyed say the main reason they do not use public transportation is because they have their own car and it is more convenient to drive. Zowie! We figure the other half just gets a kick out of aggravation.

- Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at docdelay@sptimes.com, by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by snail mail at 490 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

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